Chapter Thirty-Seven – Blocked and Frustrated
“Lindiwe, you look like you have seen a ghost,” exclaimed Pieter Erasmus, as he led Lindiwe Buthelezi to a wooden bench in the corridor.
The girl sat down and Pieter knelt next to her.
“Pieter, you are not going to believe what I saw in the past,” said Lindiwe.
Pieter shrugged his shoulders. What Lindiwe knew about the future was scary enough. Here he was. Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus, son of conservative minded parents. What was the Erasmus’ son about to do? He was about to help the enemy to power in the land of his forefathers. Pieter Erasmus was about to put the blacks in authority over the Afrikaner. There was no going back on his decision, whether his family or current employers like it, or not.
“Pieter, I heard Mandela’s voice in my spirit again,” began Lindiwe, as she began to pull herself together.
“I even saw the prison cells on this island as they were in 1973.”
“Did you see Mandela?” asked the Lieutenant.
Lindiwe shook her head.
“No, but the strange thing was that I got sidetracked by another individual who claimed that he would be the country’s President one day,” she said.
Pieter waited for the man’s name, but when Lindiwe did not respond, he had to ask for it.
“Who is he?”
“Zuma,” replied the girl.
Pieter thought about the name for a moment but he had not heard of it before. His acquaintances in the government’s intelligence unit would know better.
“Zuma seemed so sure of himself that he would one day be President of South Africa, Pieter, it was so freaky in there,” continued Lindiwe.
“What else did you see or hear?” asked Pieter.
Lindiwe sighed and tried to stretch her brains to remember every detail of what happened.
“It was so unlike what we are experiencing here,” She said.
“The wardens did not question my presence at all. When I went down that corridor towards the prison cells, it was like a magnetic force was pushing me forward. Then once I had been distracted by Zuma and the prisoners who were whistling at me, the opposite happened.”
Pieter looked confused.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“The same magnetic force that had pushed me forward, was now holding me back from getting to Mandela’s prison cell,” commented Lindiwe.
“I was so close to seeing Mandela. I could feel his presence in my spirit, but after chatting with Zuma, that Mandela influence disappeared. The Mandela voice in my mind vanished and I was pushed away to the exit, before I woke up. Am I going crazy, Pieter? If you say so, I will believe you this time.”
Pieter shook his head.
“I don’t think that you are going crazy,” he said.
What the pair did not know is that someone was keeping an eye on them from a distance. As quick as he could, that someone ran back to the prison chief’s office to set the trap for the Lieutenant.
“Daar is twee mense op die eiland wat nie hier behoort nie (there are two people on the island who don’t belong here),” reported the man to the boss, Vorster.
This was hardly the news that Vorster wanted. He had just finished a tough meeting with Correctional Services Acting Commissioner Mark van Pletzen and the African-American, Pearce Ellison, with the result having been that the human rights lawyer would be given ten minutes with Mandela in thirty minutes from now.
Vorster remembered what Pearce had said about a possible threat on the life of Mandela. If the ANC man died while he was in charge, that would be the end of his career in the Correctional Services or even perhaps the end of his life.
“Kry vir die manne om hulle wegtevat, of nee, laat volg vir hulle tot dat hulle naby die Mandela sel uitkom en dan skiet vir hulle (get the men to take them away, or no, follow them until they get close to the Mandela prison cell and then shoot them),” said Vorster with a grin.
The island prison boss could see his name up in lights. Vorster, the man who set the trap to save Mandela’s life, by eliminating two potential assassins. He would be the talk of the town, and his pension money would be huge one day.
The man left the office and returned to within eye-shot of the spot where he had seen Pieter and Lindiwe. Damn it, they weren’t there any more. He pulled out a two way radio from his jacket and began to bellow down it to his colleagues. He needed back-up support.
Pieter and Lindiwe were well hidden in a cupboard, but through a crack in the door, could see wardens moving at great speed in the direction of the prison cells.
“Hulle is nie by Mandela se sel nie (they are not at Mandela’s prison cell),” said an out-of-breath warden, a short while later.
“Hulle kan nie weg kom nie. Kring die eiland. (They can’t get away. Circle the island).
Why were the wardens so keen on finding them when there was another hitman on the loose? Then it dawned on the Lieutenant. He was going to be the fall guy. He would be blamed or killed for allegedly attempting to kill Mandela!
You are on your own, Lieutenant.
He felt those words in his spirit, but where they came from, he didn’t know. So, he could not turn to the Correctional Services employees on the island for help. They thought that he was the bad guy.
“How long can we stay here in this cupboard?” asked Pieter, out of frustration.
Two wardens, jogging down the corridor in front of the cupboard where Pieter and Lindiwe were hiding, suddenly came to a halt, as a crackling message came through on their two-way radios.
“Alles manskappe na die kaai toe (all men to the jetty),” a voice ordered over the communications system.
A cold chill went down Pieter’s spine. If the man or men that wanted to eliminate Mandela were really a part of the employees of the government, then this would be the perfect opportunity for them to carry out the task, with maximum manpower ordered to report to the jetty.
“Are you sure that you will know the way to the prison cells?” whispered Pieter to Lindiwe, with both still hiding in the cupboard.
The girl nodded.
One of the wardens standing within three metres of the cupboard turned around and glanced at the wooden closet for a moment.
Pieter cringed. Was their challenge about to be over?
Then the warden looked back at his colleague.
“Cilliers, sluit hierdie duur voordat one af kaai toe gaan (Cilliers, lock this door before we go down to the jetty),” said the taller of the two men.
The clanging sound of keys could be heard as the other warden took a bunch of keys on a keyring from his pocket.
He began to work through the twenty-odd keys one at a time in search of the correct one that would turn the lock of the door that would secure the corridor to the prison cells.
“Jy weet mos, dit sal altyd die laaste sleutel wees (you know, it will always be the last key),” he muttered, before turning the key to lock the door.
With the door secured, the two wardens headed off to the jetty.
Once Pieter was sure that the area was safe, he put his hand forward and was about to open the cupboard door when he heard footsteps. What now?
Another man in a grey uniform made his way to the door and found it locked.
He tried his best to work the door open, but he had no chance of opening the lock or moving the iron door. The man had a grey hood over his head so it was not possible for Pieter to see his face from where the pair were in the cupboard.
The man did a u-turn and walked back down the way that he had arrived, but Pieter thought that it was too risky to leave his place of hiding to try and see the man’s identity.
“When do we climb out of this cupboard?” asked Lindiwe.
“When it is safe,” snapped back Pieter.
He glanced at his wristwatch. It was 11h35. That wasn’t good news. He knew how pressed they were for time, but the good news was that the corridor door was not only a challenge to them, but also to the assassin.
He heard a thumping sound and soon more footsteps were heading towards the door.
“Ek het twee mense gesien, n wit man en n swart vrou (I saw two people, a white man and a black woman),” explained the man who had reported to the pair to island prison chief, Vorster.
A warden snapped back at the man out of frustration.
“Wel hulle is nerens op die eiland nie en het ook nie die eiland verlaat nie (well they are nowhere to be found on the island, and never left the island either)!”
The man was not happy that the warden was not believing him.
“Wel, ek gaan hulle vind al is dit die laaste ding wat ek doen (well I will find them even if it is the last thing that I do),” snapped the man.
“Ek sal vir julle wys dat ek nie mal is nie (I will show you that I am not crazy).”
The man headed off and the warden slammed his right fist against the locked door in front of him.
“Vind Cilliers met die sleutel (find Cilliers with the key)!” yelled the warden to the man, who was a good few yards down the corridor.
The warden’s two-way radio began to take a call and this time it was island prison boss, Vorster, talking to his men.
“Hoe mooilik kan dit wees om n swart meisie op Robbeneiland to volg (how difficult can it be to follow a black girl on Robben Island)?” ordered Vorster, in a seething tone.
“Wanneer julle haar vind, en die man saam met haar, volg net tot by Mandela se sel, moenie skiet nie, ek herhaal, moenie skiet nie (when you find her and the man who is with her, follow them to Mandela’s prison cell, don’t shoot, I repeat, don’t shoot)!”
Pieter breathed a sigh of relief over the fact that the wardens were ordered not to shoot Lindiwe or himself.
The warden at the locked door turned around and spotted the cupboard. He started to stride towards it and Pieter prepared his mind and fists for a fight.
Then the warden’s two-way radio crackled again.
“Verwey, laat vir die Waarnemende Kommasaris en die prokereur, Meneer Ellison, in om met Mr Mandela to gesels in the klein kantoor vir tien minuute (Verwey, let the Acting Commissioner and the lawyer, Mr Ellison, in to meet with Mr Mandela in the small office for ten minutes).”
Verwey nodded in acceptance of the order as if Vorster was standing in front of him. The warden moved away from the cupboard and stared down the corridor, as he waited for the key for the door to arrive.
He certainly hoped that the key would arrive before the Acting Commissioner and the lawyer did. He did not enjoy looking unprofessional and disorganised.
Finally, Warden Cilliers arrived with the key for the door, which was unlocked a minute or so before Acting Commissioner Mark van Pletzen and Pearce Ellison walked through, in deep conversation.
Cilliers watched Pearce cautiously. Aside from the prisoners, he wasn’t being so close to a black man, especially one with an American accent.
The warden was also quite taken aback as to how relaxed the Acting Commissioner was in his dialogue with the African-American.
Once the pair had passed through the gate, Cilliers looked at the other warden.
“Moet ek die duur weer sluit (must I lock the door)?” he asked.
“Nee, maak hom toe maar bly net hier by die hek (no, close the door but stay here,” replied the other warden.
The second warden went through the door before Cilliers closed it. All was quite for a few minutes, before footsteps were heard yet again.
The approaching looked at the tag on the warden’s shirt.
“Cilliers, ek moet by the Waarnemende Kommassaris uitkom (Cilliers, I have to get to the Acting Commissioner),” the man said.
Inside the cupboard, Pieter gasped as he recognised the grey top and hood, as that worn by the man who was at the locked door earlier. The Lieutenant also recognised the voice but was trying to put it to a face.
The Lieutenant’s mind was starting to give in due to a lack of sleep, but now was not a good time. He stretched his eyes in trying to identify the man at the door, who was showing some sort of accreditation to the warden.
The warden eventually agreed to let the man enter and radioed the pending arrival of the man to the group ahead. Pieter tried his best to hear the name of the man, but Warden Cilliers spoke so softly that it was almost impossible to work it out.
Pieter need to do something. Next to him in the cupboard, Lindiwe was trying to stretch her legs as much as she could. Her legs felt jelly-like due to a lack of movement which brought about a shortage of blood circulation.
Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus had to make a call. He could not wait any longer. If the man who had just gone through the entrance to the prison cell corridor was indeed the potential assassin, then time was really something that neither he not Lindiwe had.
Pieter Erasmus needed to time his move to perfection. With the corridor seemingly quiet and empty, he waited for Warden Cilliers to face the opposite way.
A crashing sound could be heard as the butt of Pieter’s 9mm pistol slammed down on the back of the skull of the warden. Cilliers’ legs gave way under him and he dropped to the floor.
Pieter grabbed the upper body of the unconscious warden, while Lindiwe grabbed his legs, and the prison employed was placed inside the cupboard in which the pair had been hiding.
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